Family estate drama: ProBono.Org advocating family home inheritance rights in family house dispute

Advocate Elizabeth Elsabe Steenhuisen comes across issues involving disputes within families almost on a weekly basis.

Although Advocate Steenhuisen has seen this issue tearing up families and resulting in broken down relationships between siblings, their intervention at ProBono.Org has seen matters of family homes being mediated accordingly and relationships between family members restored.

Comaro CHRONICLE met with Advocate Steenhuisen for an interview on this matter responsible for ripping some families apart.

What was the role that Pro Bono played in the cases involving a married couple going through a divorce and siblings in dispute over how to execute the distribution of their family home inheritance?

“Pro Bono identified the problem as multi-dimensional. First it entailed the law of husband and wife involving a divorce and the subsequent division of the joint estate. Secondly the siblings, who inherited the family house from the last late parent, had to be informed of the existing law’s effect and consequences on their own decisions.

“The spouse, who claimed 50 per cent of the other spouse’s right in the family house, realised that she will end up with only one eighth of the value of the house as there was, apart from her spouse, three other siblings with a claim to the house. Practically it would also be very difficult to enforce an order granting the division of the joint estate.

“The spouse had another option in that she can claim that her husband pays her out her an eighth of the value of the house.

“However, after obtaining legal assistance and advice, she decided to abandon her claim to this asset of the joint estate due to the weak financial situation of her husband, and after admitting being in the process of obtaining a house of her own.

What was the outcome of the individual cases?

“Settlement on terms which are practical for and just to both parties.”

What advice would you give to a person in a similar situation (the wife)?

“People who plan to divorce should first obtain legal advice and assistance before issuing any divorce pleadings. Round-table discussions are very useful to determine real issues and disputes about the assets. Negotiation in good faith is always the ideal to settle lasting disputes in the format of written settlement agreements.”

What advice would you give to a person in a similar situation (the siblings case)?

“Siblings who inherit family homes, must also seek legal advice, because their decision to allow one of them to continue to occupy the house, may be a solution for now, but what about other family members of those siblings who may claim they also have an entitlement of occupation now, or a real claim when they inherit from their parent/s who had a share in that family home?

When asked how many of these cases ProBono.Org advocates come across on a monthly basis, Advocate Steenhuisen concluded that it varied, although it appeared to be a real problem in the townships of the East and South Rand.

Zesuliwe Hadebe

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